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LOTS Shipping’s new cargo ship ready for coastal service, awaits Govt nod

KOCHI : In a big boost to the state government’s efforts to start coastal shipping service connecting Vallarpadam International Transshipment Terminal and minor ports, LOTS Shipping Ltd, a Kerala-based cargo shipping operator, has expressed willingness to launch service in the state. Goa-based Dempo Ship Building and Engineering Ltd has completed the construction of MV Beypore Sultan, the type IV river sea vessel built for LOTS Shipping, and it will be ready for launch and trials by October 25

However, the export community demanded that the government should increase the depth of the channel at minor ports before launching the service. “The draft depth at Beypore and Azheekal ports is only 4.5m. M V Chowgale 8 had to wait for high tide to enter the Beypore port. The delivery of the consignment was delayed by a week. Secondly, the authorities should fix the schedule for operation to ensure that the consignment is delivered on time. If the container doesn’t reach ICTT on time, the ship will leave and we will lose a customer,” said Kerala Exporters Forum honorary secretary Munshid Ali.

Kerala Maritime Board CEO T P Salim Kumar said the state will be willing to support cargo service operators. “The government is willing to support any operator who comes forward to operate cargo service connecting ICTT with minor ports. It will reduce the transportation cost by 40% and ease the traffic congestion on roads. The main complaint raised by the previous operator was that they were not getting return cargo. To compensate the loss, the government provided Rs 14,000 per 20-foot container which will be available to the new operator also. That is, if the operator carries 100 containers to Beypore and has only 20 containers in the return service, the government will compensate for 80 containers,” he said.

Chowgule 8, a cargo vessel operated by Round the Coast Pvt Ltd, had operated coastal cargo shipping service from July 2021 to March 21, 2022. The operator had complained of low draft, lack of night service at minor ports and delay in payment of incentive, which led to withdrawal of service.

Regarding complaints about lack of patronage, exporters said the undue delay in delivery of containers had forced them to depend on road transport. “A firm in Beypore had availed the service of coastal cargo service to bring sanitary ware brought from Gujarat. A truck transports the container from Kochi to Beypore within a day but it took five days for MV Chowgale 8 to deliver the container. We cannot afford such delay,” said Munshid Ali.

LOTS Shipping had laid the keel for MV Beypore Sultan in 2008 at Master Shipyard Pvt Ltd in Edakochi. However, the project was delayed for six years due to financial crisis. The vessel has been specifically designed for coastal container movements in Kerala and to provide a ‘pendulum’ service between the north and south ports. The hull of the vessel was completed in 2013 but it had been berthed idle in Kochi for another five years due to crisis.

In 2018, the vessel was shifted to Dempo Shipyard in Goa. The work was further delayed for two years due to Covid. The vessel has been built at an expense of Rs 14 crore, said LOTS Shipping CMD Capt Philip Mathew.

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